Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The Publishers’ Association of SA (Pasa) has warned of the negative economic impact on the industry resulting from far-reaching amendments to the Copyright Act.

One of these is that revenue and employment would decline, according to a study undertaken by PwC for the association. The study envisaged a weighted average decline in sales of 33% or R2.1bn, along with an increase in imports and a fall in exports.

Pasa commissioned the study in the absence of a socio-economic impact assessment of the proposed amendments by the government. Parliament’s trade and industry portfolio committee is currently holding public hearings on the Copyright Amendment Bill.

Of particular concern to publishers are the exceptions from copyright of material used for educational purposes. This could possibly entitle educational institutions, such as schools and universities, to copy entire books without having to pay a licence fee to the copyright rights holder. Under existing licences from publishers, academic staff and students are allowed to copy up to 10% of a work without infringing on copyright law.

Pasa chairperson Brian Wafawarowa said during a media briefing on Wednesday that some universities had already not renewed their copying licences in anticipation of the bill, which would free them from paying millions of rands of licence fees if enacted in its current form.

Wafawarowa noted that education accounted for more than 60% of all publishing. There was already a high level of infringement of the law, including piracy, and the bill would promote unauthorised usage.

"Undermining licence fees at a time when a greater portion of future revenues will come from licensing will impact on digital education solutions," he said. The future provision of educational material will rely more heavily on digital platforms, which were based on licences.

Other exceptions to the proposed copyright law would place a disproportionate social burden on rights holders. Wafawarowa said funding requirements should be borne by society through the state and not rights holders.

Pasa legal advisor Andre Myburgh said the bill adopted a one-size-fits-all approach that was not suitable for the publishing sector.

Also of concern was a clause providing that where works are funded by the state, their ownership will vest in the state and not in the authors. The blanket over-ride of contractual terms by the proposed legislation was also not acceptable, Myburgh said.

He warned against the danger of introducing "fair use" provisions from US law, which could cut out creators and authors from the full benefits of their work by allowing distributors to have a share of the royalties.

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